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One of the Rarest Maps of the Pacific, Intended To Illustrate Arent Roggeveen's Proposed Expedition The South Pacific

This cartographic gem brings together a collection of several of the most interesting cartographic stories of the 17th Century. Unknown to McLaughlin (Mapping of California as an Island) and Burden (The Mapping of North America), Roggeveen's map is both cartographic rarity and an interesting insight into the manner by which Dutch Mariners and private business interests proposed voyages of exploration (and commercial exploitation), in the second half of the 17th Century.

As described in greater detail below, Arent Roggeveen's most notable acheivements was the publication of the first Sea Atlas of the Americas, the Het Brandende Veen of 1675, which Roggeveen created utilizing his access to the manuscript charts of the Dutch West India Company. However, curiously absent from the Roggeveen Het Brandende Veen, was a chart of the West Coast of America and the Pacific.

The present map of the Pacific, was published to illustrate a 1676 proposal of Arent Roggeveen (and his supporters) to the States General of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, for a charter to search for unknown or unconfirmed lands in the South Pacific to the east of New Zealand. Roggeveen and other merchants from the Middelburgh region of Zeeland envisioned a expedition of discovery to the "Southland," which they believed to be a continent lying east of New Zealand. For reasons which will likely never be known, rather than publishing his own map of the Pacific, Roggeveen turned to the Widow of Pieter Goos (1616-1675), one of his primary competitors, to produce the present map to illustrate his proposal, making this one of the very view maps to bear her imprint.

The charter would be granted in 1676, but Roggeveen died before he could raise funds for the project and by 1679, the company of Zeeland merchants organized by Roggeveen to undertake the expedition, had been disbanded.

However, remarkably, 46 years later, his son Jacob, at the end of a lengthy career primarily in the service of the Dutch East India Company in Batavia, would make a similar proposal to the Dutch West India Company and would finally accomplish his father's dream of pursuing the discovery of unknown lands in the South Pacific. As noted by Sabin:

This rare and important work relates to the new lands and islands in the South Seas, and proposes an expedition for the purpose of making further explorations and discoveries. The company appears to have been dissolved, however, and the project abandoned, after the death of Roggeveen in 1679.

The map, printed by the widow of Pieter Goos, one of the most important chart makers in Amsterdam, illustrates the limited knowledge of the Dutch and other European sea powers in the middle of the 17th Century, with knowledge of Eastern Australia limited to "Anthony van Diemens Landt" and Carpentaria, as well as an early reference to Zeelandia Nova.

The title of Roggeveen's proposal to the States General was:

oorlooper Op't Octroy, Van de Hoog. Mog. Heeren Staten Generael, Verleent aen Arent Roggeveen en sijn Medestanders, Over de Australisse Zee ofte beter geseght het onbekende gedeelte des Werelts, gelegen tusschen de Meridiaen der Strate Magalanes Westwaert, tot de Meridiaen van Nova Gunea, soo Noordtwaert als Zuydtwaert.

The map is very rare on the market. We located no examples of the map or pamphlet offered for sale in the 20th Century, with the only bookseller's listing being in the catalogues of the famous Amsterdam Antiquarian Bookseller of the 19th Century, Frederik Muller & Cie., who offered the pamphlet for sale in his 1861 catalog (#7433) and his 1895 catalog (#11391), and a separate copy of the map for sale in his 1894 catalog (Item #1936).

We note no separate institutional examples of the separate map and only one example of the pamphlet with map in an American Library (John Carter Brown), along with examples in the Netherlands and Australia (3).

The Family Roggeveen

Arent Roggeen was a mathematician, publisher of navigational guides and chart seller, who produced one of the most important and rarest sea atlases of the coastline of America in 1675. As noted by Phillip Burden:

The Het Brandende Veen of 1675 provides a unique insight into the archives of one of the most influential companies in the early history of America. Through his work much of the invaluable charting of the Dutch West India Company has been saved. It was the first maritime atlas devoted to the Americas. Born in Delfshaven, he went to Middelburg in 1658, an important centre of shipping and commerce. A notable mathematician, his skills extended to surveying and navigation. He wrote a treatise on the appearance of a comet in 1664-65, and even turned his hand to poetry. He became a tutor of navigation to the pilots of both the Dutch West and East India Companies. In 1675 he even applied to be supplied with a ship for a voyage of exploration to the waters of the Pacific Ocean to locate the exact position of the southern continent. Although granted, he died in 1679 before the voyage was undertaken. However, his son Jacob made a notable voyage in 1721-22 using the same plans. .

Jacob Roggeveen was born in Middelburg in 1659. He studied to be a lawyer and in 1706 joined the Dutch East India Company, receiving the post of Raadsheet van Justitie (Council Lord of Justice) in Batavia, from 1707 to 1714. In 1721, at the age of 62, he determined to fulfill his father's dream of searching for Terra Australis and proposed an expedition to the South Seas in search of unknown lands to the Dutch East India Company. In August, 1721, he set sail with 3 ships and over 200 crew members.

After visiting the Falklands and traversing the La Maire Strait and Cape Horn, Roggeveen paused at Juan Fernandez Islands, before proceeding to the west. While Roggeeven had hoped to encounter the unknown southern continent, his expedition is now best remembered for the discovery of Easter Island on April 5, 1722, then considered the world's most remote inhabited island, becoming the first Europeans to document monolithic Moai rock figures which have become synonymous with the island.

From Easter Island, he sailed for Batavia, by way of the Tuamotu Archipelago, the Society Islands, and Samoa. Once in Batavia, Roggeveen was arrested by the Dutch East India Company for violating its monopoly, a charge which ultimately failed.

Arent Roggeveen Biography

Arent Roggeveen was a land surveyor, mathematician, poet and teacher of navigation. Born in Delfshaven, he later moved to Middelburg where both the Dutch East and West India Companies were based. He was employed by both companies as a teacher in the art of navigation. He also helped maintain their collections of hydrographic manuscripts and charts, including Spanish portulanos of the West Indies. In the mid-1660s, Roggeveen compiled a series of large scale charts of the North American coastline, West Indies and later, West Africa. His Het Brandende Veen or The Burning Fen represented a landmark in the coastal charting of North America, with a number of regions mapped in a larger scale than in any previously printed work. Roggeveen arranged for Pieter Goos, one of the leading engravers and publishers of maritime books in Amsterdam to publish the collection. The completed work was the first Dutch pilot that was focused on select areas of the American coastline. Previously, all printed maps and charts that dealt with this coastline were on a much larger scale.

Roggeveen died in 1679. Goos' widow sold the plates to Jacob Robijn, who reissued the maps with his name added to the title, but otherwise unchanged, in 1680. Both examples of the map are extremely rare. The atlases were undoubtedly published in limited quantities. Working sea charts and pilots from the 17th Century are inherently rare due to the nature of their use aboard ships. The vast majority of them were either destroyed by use or destroyed intentionally when new updated versions were obtained.